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Diana and the nymphs
18th Century
Diana and the nymphs
[Diana e Atteone]
c 1725
Oil on canvas
147 x 197.5 cm  [HxW]
Museo Civico Palazzo Chiericati, Vicenza

Giambattista Pittoni stands out from the many painters who were active in Venice and in the Veneto region in the first half of the 18th century for his uniquely sophisticated form of expression created by a soft, ethereal use of light and a sumptuous and varied emphasis on colour. These qualities can be seen equally well in a series of pictures of religious or historical-moralising subjects and in mythological scenes, most of which reveal a scarcely concealed eroticism also to be found in similar works produced by Sebastiano Ricci, Pellegrini and Jacopo Amigoni in that period.

The canvas in the Museo Civico in Vicenza, is ascribed by critics to around 1725, at the end of the painter’s stay in the city. It relates the legend of Diana and Actaeon, but the tragic conclusion of this splendid love story is relegated to the background where, on the banks of a stream, the young hunter who had so charmed the goddess lies supine on the ground, savaged by his own dogs. Full attention, on the contrary, is given to the goddess of hunting, who appears in all her splendour at the right of the painting. She is surrounded by a large retinue of nymphs all intent on assisting her after she has bathed in the stream: an exceptional and splendid sequence of soft female nudes, caught in a whole array of poses. This is truly the triumph of the most sensual feminine beauty.

Filippo Pedrocco

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